Corneal Transplant

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Corneal transplant surgery involves the removal of a patient’s diseased or damaged cornea and replacing it with a healthy donor cornea.  The cornea is the clear element at the front of the human eye, which begins to refract (focus) incoming light and pass it through to the inner eye.  When the cornea becomes misshapen, cloudy, scarred or otherwise damaged, there are a variety of treatments available.  An ophthalmologist resorts to a corneal transplant when other methods of treatment have been exhausted.  The corneal transplant is the most commonly performed, and most successful, of all transplant surgeries.

Reasons for considering a corneal transplant: 

  • Complications from other eye surgery resulting in failure of the cornea.
  • Dystrophy of the cornea (Fuchs Dystrophy).
  • Eye trauma resulting in corneal scarring.
  • Hereditary problems with the cornea.
  • Keratoconus, a disease in which the cornea degenerates into a steep cone shape.
  • Rejection of a previous corneal transplant.
  • Various corneal infections that lead to scarring, including herpes viruses.

Doctors usually prefer to exhaust other, non-invasive forms of treatment first.  However, when problems of vision and/or pain can no longer be treated with glasses, contacts, pharmaceuticals or other specialized treatments, corneal transplant surgery is a viable solution.

The Procedure

Dr. Cohen performs several different types of corneal transplants (partial and full thickness) depending upon which part of the cornea is diseased.  Once the decision is made to undergo corneal transplant surgery, a suitable donor cornea must be obtained.  This is done through the Iowa Lions Eye Bank.  Dr. Cohen has been working with this group for the past several years and they are one of the best eye banks in the country.  Each potential donor is carefully screened, both for diseases that could be transmitted and for clarity.  The surgery is an outpatient procedure performed at the Mercy ASC, just down the street from our office.  This is done with either a local or general anesthetic.

The Recovery

The patient is advised to rest the day of the surgery.  There will be a post-operative appointment with the doctor the next day.  After this, the patient may resume gentle tasks and activities, but must wear glasses or a shield to protect the eye, and administer eye drops as instructed by the physician.  After a week, more strenuous activities (like mild exercise) may be carefully resumed.    The patient must continue to remain vigilant for signs of complication, and contact the eye doctor immediately upon any abnormal occurrence.

If you have questions or would like to meet with Dr. Cohen, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation.